Voyager’s epic journey: How long would it take you?

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Nasa’s Voyager 1 spacecraft will soon become the first human-made object to leave our Solar System. It has taken it 35 years to reach the edge of interstellar space.

Below, you can see some of the steps it has taken along the way.

Nasa’s Voyager 1 spacecraft is on target to become the first man-made object to reach the edge of the Solar System. It has taken it 35 years to get there – how long would it take you?

    • Click to watch
      Voyager's launch

      Voyager 1 and 2′s original mission was to explore Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Launched in 1977, scientists did not imagine that the twin spacecraft would continue their journey for more than three and a half decades.

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      Jupiter

      The spacecraft reached Jupiter in 1979. Their fly-by enabled scientists to bolster our understanding of the planet’s Great Red Spot; a series of intense storms. While passing Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, Voyager had first sight of volcanic activity beyond Earth.

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      Saturn's rings

      Voyager 1 discovered that Saturn’s atmosphere was almost entirely made of hydrogen and helium gas, making it the only planet less dense than water. The spacecraft was then diverted towards Titan, one of the planet’s moons. After its fly-by of Saturn, Voyager 2 headed for Uranus and Neptune.

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      Uranus

      In January 1986, nine years after its launch, Voyager 2 came within 81,500km (50,600 miles) of Uranus, revealing unknown details of the planet’s rings and taking pictures of 10 previously unseen moons.

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      One of the dishes of the Deep Space Network

      As it became clear that Voyager would travel beyond the outer planets to the farthest reaches of the Solar System, preparations were made to keep scientists in touch with the probes. As a result, the Deep Space Network upgraded its antennas during the 1980s.

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      Neptune, and its moon Triton

      In 1989 Voyager 2 became the first spacecraft to observe Neptune. Like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus before it, Neptune was also observed to be a giant planet made of gas. Voyager took striking images of Neptune’s rings. Neptune was the final planet that Voyager visited.

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      The Pale Blue Dot, Earth seen from six billion kilometres

      After passing Neptune, scientists turned Voyager 1′s cameras back toward Earth. The result was a humbling image of our planet, taken from more than six billion kilometres (four billion miles) away – a picture that astronomer Carl Sagan referred to as “The Pale Blue Dot”.

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      Ed Stone

      Over the decades, since the mission’s inception, Dr Ed Stone has coordinated the Voyagers’ study of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, the outer heliosphere and the search for the edge of interstellar space.

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      Pioneer 10

      In February 1998, Voyager 1 set the record for the most distant human-made object in space, passing its predecessor Pioneer 10.

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      The gold disc

      In the hope of communicating with extra-terrestrials, each Voyager was fitted with a golden disc. The discs carry a record of Earth’s location along with sounds and images that portray the diversity of life on Earth.

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      The Sun

      In December 2004 Voyager 1 crossed the termination shock, a region of extreme turbulence where opposing solar and interstellar winds collide. Crossing this threshold signalled that Voyager had taken a significant step towards leaving the Solar System.

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      Voyager

      Voyager 2 is now approximately 15 billion kilometres from Earth (9 billion miles) and heading in a different direction to Voyager 1. It crossed the termination shock in 2007. However, Voyager 1 is billions of kilometres further from Earth than its twin.

  1. You’ve reached Voyager 1′s current location

    Voyager took 35 years to travel 18.5 billion km

Voyager 1 is nearly 18.5 billion kilometres from Earth (11.5 billion miles) how much further the spacecraft can go remains to be seen. But at current speeds it would need to travel for 40,000 years to reach the nearest star.

Dallas Campbell narrates a brief overview of the Voyager mission, in this clip from the BBC Four documentary, Voyager: to the final frontier

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is clear to see in these images, taken by Voyager over a period of 60 days

These images of Saturn’s rings gently spinning were taken by Voyager 2 in 1981

Uranus

One of the dishes of the Deep Space Network

Neptune, and its moon Triton

In this clip from the BBC Four documentary, Voyager: to the final frontier, Dallas Campbell describes how the picture came about.

The gold disc

This recording of the solar wind has been looped, as the original is only 6 seconds long. NASA/JPL/University of Iowa

Dallas Campbell describes the longest journey of any spacecraft so far, in this extract from the BBC Four documentary, Voyager: to the final frontier.

Voyager surfs Solar System’s edge

FAQ: How was this graphic made?

BBC Blogs, an epic journey for UXD

By John Walton, Helene Sears, Steven Connor, Josephine Lie, Christi Sodano, Tom Maslen, Steven Atherton and Martyn Rees

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21937524#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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